Wat Somanas

Wat Somanas

Wat Somanas Rajawaravihara | Second Class Royal Temple | Presiding Buddha Image: Phra Sam Buddha Somanas Wattanawadee Natthabophit

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Officially named Wat Somanas Rajawaravihara, this temple was built as an act of merit by King Rama IV, Phrabat Somdet Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua. The king dedicated the new wat to Somdej Phra Nang Chao Somanas Watthanawadee, his consort, who died at the beginning of his reign. It is officially a royal temple in the category of Rajawaravihara, second class.

The grounds of Wat Somanas Vihara encompass slightly more than thirty-one rai, including the moats on three sides. The Phadung Krung Kasem canal runs in front of the temple. On Monday, the second day of the waning moon, in the second month of the year of the Ox, 2396 B.E., or January 15, 1853, Phrabat Somdet Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua laid the foundation stone for the temple. The Uposatha, Vihara, cloister and chedi were to be located in the middle zone, the precinct of the Buddha image. Clusered on two sides were the monks' dwelling places. Three groups of monks would live on each side. Before the temple a large courtyard was planned. All the temples along Phadung Krung Kasem canal, for example, Wat Somanas Vihara, Watmakutkasat Tiryaram, and Wat thepsirin tarawat, have this distinctive layout, especially the wide forecourt. This front court at Wat Somanas Vihara has been used as a school. Today, there is a crematorium at the back, and a cemetery on the side.

During the early stages of its construction, accommodations were providedfor monks only during the Lenten season. Later, the King invited Phra Ariamuni (Phutthasiri Thera-Thab) from Wat Rajathiwat and 40 other monks to fully occupy the temple. They came in procession by boat. The King received the monks with an act of alms giving, offering food and other essentials in accordance with their ranks. The temple area was probably designated without buildings, according to the traditions of covered with pea or bean vines. The area was quite uninhabited in those days, without the dense crowd of shops and residences that now surround the temple.

By 1857, when Phra Ariyamuni was promoted to the rank of Phra Phrommuni, construction of permanent objects in the temple had not progressed very far. A new reign began and anew king, Rama 5, ascended the throne. In the year of the Monkey, B.E. 2415 (1872), Phra Phrommuni was promoted once more, this time to the rank of Phra Phimolatham. The young monarch visited the temple in B.E. 2418 (1875) to present new robes to the monks and to install a relic of the Lord Buddha at the principal chedi. Seven years later in B.E. 2422 (1879), The year of the Rabbit, phra Phimolathamawas honored still further with the new title of Somdej Phrawannarat.

It was during this time that some significant permanent structures were built at Wat Somanas Vihara. They included the Uposatha, the Vihara, and the chedi. The Uposatha housed the presiding image, the Lord Buddha in a sitting position. Known as Phra Sam Buddha Siri, the sculpture measures two kueb across the knees. (A Kueb is a unit of linear measurement based on the width of an adult's palm. It measures about 6, from the tip of the outstretched thumb to the tip of the fully extended first finger.) Phra Sam Buddha Siri was cast by Somdej Phrawannarat and was brought from Wat Rajathiwat. The principal Buddha image in the Vihara and the images of the disciples were royal properties which were brought from the Grand Palace. The temple thus became a complete Buddhist monastery, financially supported from the inheritance of the late Somdej Phra Nang Chao Somanas Watthanawadee.

Wat Somanas Vihara continues to prosper today. Several senior senior monks have served as abbot including Somdej Phra Wannarat from 2399 to 2434 B.E., Phra Rajaphong Patiphat (M.R.Lon Klauymai) from 2434 to 2445 B.E., Phra Maha Weerawong (Khema Phirata Thera-Yang) from 2445 to 2474 B.E., Phra Phutta Wiri Yakon (Chanta Kanta Thera-chan) from 2474 to 2481 B.E., and Phra Siri Panyamuni (Tathuttasiri Yiam) from 2484 to 2489 B.E. Like all the temples in abbot is Somdej Phra Wannarat (Chabthita Thammo) Wat Somanas Vihara was systematidally laid out from the start and the plan has beenmaintained with little change,especially the front area, next to the Phadung Krung Kasem canal. That area remains as open ground, and is relatively quiet, compared to the back of the temple where the crematorium is located. As the temple is now part of an area also occupied by government offices, it is well known and easy ti find. Big trees contribute to its pleasant, shady surroundings. Easy access, an agreeable environment, and warm cooperation from temple administrators has encouraged large nubers of Buddhists to come to Wat Somanas Vihara for dhamma practice and meditation sessions.

The sanctuary (Buddhavasa) and the monastic area of the monastery (Sanghavasa) have been clearly delimited. The former, which is in the middle, comprises the Phra Uposatha (Church), the Phra Vihara (Assembly Hall), the Cloister and the pagoda. The latter, located alongside the sanctuary is the dwelling compound of monks and novices.

The monastery has started a Meditation Teaching Course in the Phra Vihara (Assembly Hall) on the first and the third Saturdays of every month and on each Buddhist Holy Day (Wan Phra) four times a month.

Built at the behest of King Mongkut (Rama IV), Wat Somanas Vihara stands in all its ar architectural splendor on Krungkasem Road. The construction of this temple shows the refined workmanship of skilled craftsmen from the Rattanakosin era. There are a number of uniquely beautiful mural paintings in its wihan or chapel. Lines and colors in thesa murals are painstakingly and attentively drawn and applied in a style similar to paintings at other temples. At Wat Somanas Vihara, however, the artists depart from tradition by omitting the life story of the Buddha, the Ten Reincarnation Jataka. Instead, aliterary masterpiedce from the rieign of Rama 2, the story of Inao, has been depicted. Dhammaa riddles and moral proverbs are included in every bay. The daily life of townspeoole in that era is describeb. Western perspective devices are used to show distance, an innovation in the traditional art of the day. These paintings are treasures to be proud of and should be preserved.

Murals on the lower part of the first wall are selected for demonstration here. They are selected for demonstration here. They are paintings of architedture. Typical of the reign of Phrabat Somdet Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua, King Rama IV, are depictions of palaces, temples and mansions built of the masonry and plaster work which was pooular in that period. Western influence was very intense.

Encompassing a wide space, the picure depicts, in a general way, the sky with clouds and a landscape with tall trees in foreground, middle ground and background. The painting illustrates the skills of painters in the fourth reign. They mastered the new techniques becoming available in that era. Nothein looks awkward. Landscapes like this, adapted to current popular trends, dominated mural painting in the reign of King Rama IV. Other elements, however, are in traditional Thai style.

The painting depicts Prasanta Presenting a Shadow Play about the misunderstandings and separations that people suffer. It is an important episode in the story. The persons operating the figures in the shadow play are seen moving with the actions of the character on the screen.

Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok, Thailand.

Bus Nos. 5, 10, 15, 47, 48, 53, 70, 201
Air-conditioned bus Nos. 3, 5, 9

Opening hours
The Temple is Open Daily from 08.00 A.M. - 06.00 P.M.

Credits: Wat Somanas Rajawaravihara

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